colour, film, history, landscape

Traumatic history

January 25, 2016

This picture  made in the  Namadgi National Park  is  from  the dark landscapes projected it  is of a traumatic event–the Canberra  bush fire. It is also a place of collective memory of the  Canberra bushfire of 2003, which was the first confirmed case of a fire tornado in Australia,  in which 4 people died, 490 were injured,  over 500 homes destroyed, and 164,000 hectares burnt.  That burnt area was close to 70% of the Territories total area.

burnt tree, Namadgi National Park,

burnt tree, Namadgi National Park

It is a site of traumatic history,  and  it is a photograph made of a place at which the bushfire event occurred over a decade before. As a photographer I came late to the scene  and what is photographed is the remaining traces of the bush fire in the landscape. It is a photograph that was taken in a return to a location or site in the Namadgi National Park after the bush fire has happened, and it is made in response to the traces of this event in the landscape.

It is an example of  what is known as aftermath or late photography  ie.,photographs of the  consequences  of most often of cataclysmic events such as  war, displacement and  natural disaster. The photographer, as it were,  turns up late, wanders through the places where things have previously happened, and  photographs  the effects of the  cataclysmic event. Joel Meyerowitz’s photographs  of the aftermath of the collapse of the World Trade Centre—Aftermath: World Trade Centre Archive— is a classic example. Simon Norfolk’s pictures of Afghanistan after the Allied invasion in 2001 is another.

 The static  photograph that depicts stillness is connected to collective memory of the Canberra bushfire well after the bushfire event has been reported on through the image culture of television (eg., video)   and the photojournalism in the newspapers. The newspaper constitutes a second wave of interpreted information and commentary.

 The static,  late photograph, with its slow stare and deliberation,  of the pictures of the detritus left behind by the event  refer to absence as much as presence and, because of this, are inextricably linked to issues of memory. The images present themselves as fragments not wholes, to be read through and against a backdrop of other media representations. In terms of our image culture  photography becomes a second wave of representation, returning to look again at what was first understood, or misunderstood through television.

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